Omar El Akkad, author of American War, among winners of $10K Kobo Emerging Writer Prizes

The award recognizes the best debut Canadian books in literary fiction, mystery and nonfiction.
Omar El Akkad's debut novel is American War. (Peter Power/CBC)

The 2018 winners of the Kobo Emerging Writer Prizes have been revealed. The annual prizes recognize up-and-coming Canadian writers in fiction, nonfiction and a rotating genre prize. The winner of each category received $10,000.

The winner of the fiction category was Omar El Akkad for his debut novel American War.

American War was a contender in Canada Reads 2018, a finalist for the $40,000 First Novel Award and has been longlisted this year's Sunburst Award for Canadian speculative writing. The dystopian novel looks to a not-too-distant future rocked by the effects of climate change and a second American Civil War is underway.

"With beautifully crafted prose, deft character strokes and a propulsive narrative, Omar El Akkad creates a hellish, all-too-believable ethical wasteland," Lori Lansens, who judged the fiction category, said in a release. 

Maria Qamar, better known as Hatecopy, won the nonfiction prize for her humorous "survival guide" Trust No Aunty. The book is based on her popular Instagram page and her experience of growing up in a South Asian immigrant family in Canada.

Jay Ingram, this year's nonfiction judge, praised Qamar for her humour and the "lighthearted way she weaves together art, human nature and culture and leaves the reader enlightened, or at least more aware, than before."

The genre category in 2018 was mystery. Sheena Kamal won for her debut thriller novel, The Lost Ones.

"Kamal uses the conventions of the crime novel to cast a critical eye on Vancouver's societal dysfunction, racism and poverty," said this year's mystery judge, Linwood Barclay.

The winners were announced at ceremony in Toronto on June 19, 2018. They were selected from a shortlist of Canadian authors created by Kobo's team of booksellers. Book completion rates, customer ratings and reviews were taken into consideration.


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